Drum heads are an aspect of drumming that everyone only seems to become aware of in later years. Every drum kit you buy will come with stock heads, and many people buying their first drum kits don’t know that you can change them.
Why would you change them? The stock drum heads sound fine, right? Well, drum manufacturers almost never put the best drum heads on their drums as stock heads, obviously to cut costs.
That leaves us with the question of which drum heads will be the best? It depends on the style of music you want to play. Most drum heads are quite similar and hard to tell apart, but there are definite differences and nuances to each of them, and each nuance works well for certain styles of music.
Now, onto the drum heads!
Best Drum Heads for Toms, Snare & Bass Drum
Table of Contents
- Best Drum Heads for Toms, Snare & Bass Drum
- Types of Drum Heads
- My Combination Picks for Each Style of Music
1. Evans Genera HD Dry - Snare Head
At first glance at this head, you will notice something very weird. It has small holes around the edge. Evans has called these “dry vent holes”. These holes help to eliminate overtones from your snare drum, which creates a controlled and focused sound.
The Genera HD Dry is a 2 ply head. The thickness of the head means there is little sustain that will come from the snare. This is further helped by the control ring that is put underneath the surface of the head. The 2 mil control ring controls and focuses the sound in conjunction with the vent holes.
Basically, you’re going to have a seriously articulate snare drum that doesn’t ring for long. It won’t need much muffling.
The Evans Genera HD Dry will be good for most styles of music. The short sustain and controlled sound will fit perfectly in a quiet church setting, since the snare won’t be ringing for too long. However, you might want that sustain in a loud mega-church setup.
The articulation you get from the head will be good for jazz, since the head will be sensitive to all the intricate notes that are played quickly. It will cause the snare to respond well to that. The head is coated, meaning it will be good for brushes, a staple in a jazz setup.
The head will also fit in perfectly in a rock or metal setup. The 2 ply thickness means the snare will be able to take many loud beatings with no worries of smashing through the head too quickly.
2. Remo Pinstripe - Tom Heads
The Remo Pinstripe is one of the most popular drum heads in the world. Most house drum kits that I have played on at gigs have these heads on the toms. Why are they so popular?
Firstly, they’re a 2 ply drum head, which makes them easy to tune. The thickness controls the overtones of the drums well, meaning you won’t have to do much dampening to the drums.
The Remo Pinstripes work best when tuned low, giving a big bright attack, followed by a deep tone, with a good focus on the warmer side of the sound spectrum. They are highly durable and suited for medium to high volume playing.
They are a favorite of rock and metal drummers. This is due to their durability and control of sustain. They may not fit well in a worship setting, since contemporary Christian music is very tom heavy and needs the toms to have a fair bit of sustain.
They also may not fit well in a jazz setting, since the heads are 2 ply. Jazz toms are generally 1 ply, which produces longer sustain in higher tunings. The Remo Pinstripes are also clear heads, meaning they wont respond well to brushes.
3. Evans EMAD Heavyweight Clear - Bass Head
The Evans EMAD Heavyweight has that name for a reason. This bass drum head is seriously thick. With two 10mil clear plies of film, this thing is made for a pounding.
The EMAD heavyweight comes with two different foam dampening rings, which can be placed on the front of the head, and can easily be swapped out. This broadens the head’s versatility as you have an option of three different sounds. You could play without the rings for more sustain, or choose between the two rings depending on how much dampening you want.
The head without the dampening rings still has a short sustain and controlled sound due to the head being 2 ply.
This drum head was made for extremely hard hitting, so it is good for medium to loud playing. The head will cause your bass drum not to respond well to soft playing as it is so thick.
The actual tone the head gives out is a sort of clicking sound. This will work well in styles where the bass drum is essential and needs to cut through such as metal or rock. You’ll find that the bass drum click gives the impression of a natural EQ.
The head will also work well in a worship setting, due to the bass drum being so important in that style of music. It won’t work well for jazz though, because it isn’t responsive to softer playing.
4. Remo Controlled Sound Coated with Black Dot - Snare Head
The Remo Controlled Sound is a single ply head. However, it has black dot in the center which makes it a bit thicker in that area. It has quite a bit of sustain due to the single play thinness. The black dot controls this, but if you don’t hit the snare in the center, it’s going to produce some unwanted overtones.
The head is highly responsive and gives a good cutting projection. It will be good for rock and contemporary music, due to the head’s consistency. It will also be good for jazz, since it is a 1 ply head and is responsive to nuanced playing.
However, you won’t get a sharp crack from your snare drum with this head, meaning it won’t be suitable for styles such as hip hop or R&B.
5. Evans G2 Coated - Tom Heads
The Evans G2 Coated are 2 ply drum heads, with a coated top layer. They provide a moderate amount of sustain, with the 2 plies stopping too many overtones. However, you can still get those overtones if you hit the sides of the heads.
The coating of the heads gives the head a warm sound with moderate attack. Basically meaning the frequencies won’t be too high and you will get a nice controlled sound. The coating will also give responsiveness to it, which will be good for soft playing and the use of brushes.
These heads are very diverse. Their responsiveness will suit jazz playing extremely well. You’ll find that all jazz drummers use coated heads.
The coated heads are better suited for soft to medium playing, so they won’t be the best option for rock and metal. However, you can just get the clear versions of the Evans G2, which have most of the same qualities, but are better for loud playing.
6. Remo Powerstroke 3 - Bass Head
The Remo Powerstrokes are Remo’s most popular bass drum heads. The Powertroke 3, in particular, is my favorite.
This bass drum head gives a balanced tone and punchy response. It has a thin outer-edge underlay that dampens high frequencies, which keeps the tone of the drum focused without too many overtones.
The Impact Pad that comes with this head brings out the attack of the bass drum beater, meaning it will cut nicely through any mix.
The muffling that is built into the head allows for a short sustain, yet is versatile enough to allow the bass drum to be tuned to sound wide and open, making this head usable in many styles of music.
This is easily one of the best drum heads for rock, metal, worship and fusion music.
7. Aquarian Hi-Energy - Snare Head
This drum head was used by Dave Grohl in Nirvana. He said it was the only snare head he used that didn’t break. If you know Dave Grohl, you know he’s a hard hitter. The Aquarian Hi-Energy is only a 1 ply head, which usually means its not meant for hard hitting, so why is this head different?
It has a large control dot across the center, which is made from a tough material. The control dot reinforces the drum head and makes it durable to heavy hitting. Like all drum heads with control dots, you will have to hit in the center to get the best and most consistent sound.
The Aquarian Hi-Energy produces a sharp attack sound, making it great in high volume settings. This means it is a perfect choice for rock and metal music.
The control dot causes the head to lose some responsiveness in lighter playing, meaning its not ideal for jazz. The head is also clear, whereas jazz will need a coated head.
All of the previously mentioned drum heads on this list were batter heads, meaning they’re placed on the side of the drum that you hit with sticks. But did you know that you can change the bottom heads of drums to alter the sound as well? They’re called resonant heads, and the the Remo Ambassador Snare-side head is a good one.
The hazy film of this drum head will make the snare drum sound warm, meaning it will give off a low frequency sound.
The 3 mil ply of this head allows for a moderate sustain, giving all of your strokes an open tone. The response will be crisp, depending on what batter head you use along with it.
This head will be good for all styles of music, as it will help to add tonal quality to your snare drum. It will then depend on what batter head you use for the main aspects of your snare sound.
Types of Drum Heads
Batter and Resonant
The heads that go on top of the drum, where you hit, are called batter heads. The heads that go underneath the drum are called resonant heads. The batter head mainly controls the tone of the drum while the resonant head mainly controls the sustain, yet both batter and resonant heads work together to control the sound.
Single-ply drum heads are the thinnest type of drum heads you get. Most are created from a single layer of 10mil mylar. They are most commonly used as resonant heads because they greatly help the resonation of the drum.
As batter heads, single-ply drum heads bring out overtones of a drum and are very responsive to being hit. Since they are thin, they are not as durable as double-ply heads.
Double-ply heads are made with two layers of mylar. This makes them thicker and more durable. They have less overtones and shorter stain than single-ply heads. They are good for heavy-hitting styles of music such as rock and metal.
Coated and Clear
Coated heads have a layer of coating that muffles the sound slightly. They are good for snare drums and sound warm on toms. They are also necessary if you plan on playing with brushes.
Clear heads sound brighter and more open. They do not work well with brushes.
My Combination Picks for Each Style of Music
Now that we have looked at all those different drum heads and their strengths and weaknesses, it is time to look at combinations of them that will be best suited for different styles of music.
Best Drum Heads for Metal & Rock
These two styles are grouped together because they both require hard hitting and durability. You are going to want toms that have a nice thud while your snare drum cuts through the loudness of the rest of the band.
These are my picks:
Snare Drum - Aquarian Hi Energy
Toms - Remo Pinstripes
Bass Drum - Evans EMAD Heavyweight
Best Drum Heads for Jazz
When playing jazz, it is important to have an extremely responsive drum kit. This style of music calls for nuanced playing, wide dynamic range and general sensitivity. The tone of your drum kit is very important. You want your toms to sing and your snare to crack in the heat of the moment.
These are my picks:
Snare Drum - Evans Genera Dry HD
Toms - Evans G2 Coated
Bass Drum - Remo Powerstroke 3
Best Drum Heads for Church / Worship
Contemporary worship music is very tom-heavy. You’re going to want your toms to sound big and loud. I spend most of my days in church playing a four-on-the-floor groove, meaning your bass drum is very prevalent. However, you’re also going to have to play very sensitively when the moment calls for it, so your drums will need to respond well to that.
These are my picks:
Snare Drum - Remo Controlled Sound Coated with Black Dot
Toms - Evans G2
Bass Drum - Remo Powerstroke 3
Drum heads have the power to make or break your kit. An entry-level kit can sound really good with the right drum heads, while a high-quality kit could sound mediocre with the wrong drum heads.
I’ve tried to include some of the best models of drum heads. There are plenty of options and combinations, and they’re all waiting for you to go try out on your kit. So do yourself a favor and swap out your stock drum heads!